Tales of College Life/A Long-Vacation Vigil/Chapter 6
PLANS AND PREPARATIONS.
Half an hour had passed; we had re-read the letter, and had carefully considered every word of its remarkable disclosures.
"Poor thing!" at length sighed Nelly; "what is to be done?"
"Done!" I cried; "why, what she wants, of course. 'Lives there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said'—it 's my duty to help a female in distress? What 's to be done! Why, of course, I shall go to meet Captain Alvanley, and shall help them all I can. That is what is to be done, Nelly." I said this with quite a Spartan firmness; for, as Amy was really another's, I had only to make a virtue of necessity, and nip my love in the bud with the best grace I might.
"Poor thing!" again sighed my sister; "no wonder she looked so sad; and, when she might be so happy, it seems hard to refuse to help her. But would it be acting right towards her parents?" I think that Nelly in her secret heart was rejoiced at the very prospect of assisting in an elopement; but I suppose she considered it proper morality to make an objection.
"Her parents!" I answered hotly (and I don't wish to defend what I said; I only record it because I said it); "her parents, indeed! Have they acted right towards her? Did that dragon father of hers care more about uniting her, or the estates? Has n't he set title-deeds and dowries in the place of love and affection? Has n't he proudly placed his own family aggrandisement as superior to his child's happiness? Does n't he look upon her wedding-ring merely as a symbol of a ring-fence? Does n't he want to make the holy estate of matrimony an estate of broad acres, and to sink love in the land-tax? Is marriage only a matter for lawyers? Can you write on hearts like parchment, and endorse them like bills, to be made payable at sight to any one you please, changing 'I love you' into an I O U? Must poor Amy be a 'puppet to a father's threat?' as Tennyson says."
"Dear me," said Nelly, whose breath was almost taken away by my impetuosity; "you treat me to quite a little homily."
"Why, suppose," I continued, "that you were placed in a similar position with regard to Fred." (my sister was engaged to Fred. Temple, so I knew that this was an argumentum ad hominem, which all her filial logic would not be able to resist); "and suppose you threw yourself on the confidence of a young girl of your own age, what should you think of her if she refused to assist you; and what would Fred, think of that young lady's brother if he followed his sister's example? Fred, would call him out at once. So, as I don't want to go out with Captain Alvanley, I shall meet him with pacific intentions at the cross-roads at twelve o'clock to-night."
Nelly did not require more persuasion, so we both agreed to help poor Amy all we could, and not to mention the subject to my mother, for fear she should side with the parents, and disclose the projected elopement to Lady Glenarvon.
"Captain Alvanley," mused my sister as we wandered back to the hotel, "I cannot but help thinking that I have heard his name, and that he is a friend of Frederick's, and in the same regiment."
Now that my sister mentioned it, I had some dim recollection of the same thing; and though we could neither of us fully determine it as a fact, the mere supposition of its truth made us, if possible, more earnest in Amy's cause. We had no "Army List" to refer to, to settle the point; but when we got back to our rooms, Nelly turned up Lord Glenarvon's name in the "Peerage" (my mother never travelled without the "Peerage," and "Johnson's Dictionary") and, sure enough, we there found the name of his "sole child and heiress, the Lady Amy Frances Darnell, heir-presumptive to the barony of Darnell, born ——, (Amy was barely twenty). And it further stated that the "heir-presumptive to the Earldom and Barony of Arvon," was "his Lordship's eldest brother," whose son, the Hon. Henry Algernon Alvanley, was "Captain in the —th Light Dragoons" (Fred.'s regiment).
This discovery was exceedingly agreeable to our feelings, as we had now an additional incentive to aid poor Amy. Nelly entered heart and soul into the scheme; delighted at being able to assist a friend of her affianced husband.
Both she and I remained in a great state of excitement all the evening, longing for midnight to arrive. "It will be impossible for me to go to sleep," said Nell; "so I shall take a book to my room, and sit up till you can come and tell me the result of the night's adventure."
To Mrs. Rummell, I said "that I was going out, and should not be back till late: would she give me a latch-key? and that would prevent any of the servants' sitting up for me."
"Oh, certainly, Sir, with the greatest of pleasure; it was n't every gentleman that had so much thought for servants."
All being prepared, as the hour of midnight drew nigh, I sallied out with Trap, and commenced my vigil. The hotel was situate on the outside of the little town. Its front (where was our suite of rooms) looked over the cliffs towards the sea; its north side (where Amy had told me was her bedroom) was bounded by the Avenue-road, a road overhung by lime-trees, which led towards the inland, and which, at the distance of between three and four hundred yards, met at right angles, the North-road. It was at this point that I was to meet Captain Alvanley.